The precepts of a healthy criminal justice system dictate punishment for offenders and recompense for victims. In an idealized society, those tenets rectify the wrongs done by offenders and set aright the course of proper civilized behavior. And this applies particularly to impaired driving offenses.
However, reality – and the existential human struggle to correct an imperfect judiciary system – delivers an ugly indictment of a process riddled with tragic flaws: too many offenders returning to their offenses as victims’ suffering continues unabated.
While percentages have declined in the last few decades, recidivism rates remain unacceptably high, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In examining studies of recidivism for impaired driving, the agency concluded that rates have dropped in the last 20 years from 31 percent to 25 percent – the “rosy” side of a very dark nightmare.
More Than Half of Offenders Get Back Behind the Wheel
Those numbers direct us to a difficult truth: One in four convicted impaired-driving offenders get back behind the wheel. Mothers Against Drunk Driving paint an even bleaker picture: 50-70 percent of convicted offenders continue driving on suspended licenses (which were penalties ascribed for driving while impaired).
The downward spiral seems to grow steeper. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics, three people are killed every two hours from impaired-driving highway crashes. The department cited an estimated 4 million adults in the United States drove while impaired, leading to nearly 112 million impaired-driving incidents in 2010.
More than 13,000 people died in impaired-driving crashes that year, according to the USDOT, causing an estimated $37 billion in damages.
Highway Deaths on the Rise
Government statistics released this summer show a rise in highway fatalities. In July the USDOT’s Traffic Safety Administration showed a 7.7 percent increase in vehicle crash deaths. While analysts haven’t determined the exact cause for the rise (to 35,200 deaths), officials point to busier highways from lower gas prices and bad driving habits.
“As the economy has improved and gas prices have fallen, more Americans are driving more miles,” said NHTSA Administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind.
“But that only explains part of the increase. Ninety-four percent of crashes can be tied back to a human choice or error, so we know we need to focus our efforts on improving human behavior while promoting vehicle technology that not only protects people in crashes but helps prevent crashes in the first place.”
YouImpact Goes To The Heart
Stubborn recidivism rates and traffic conditions may fluctuate; engineers may develop new vehicle-safety technologies; and legislators may enact tough laws. However, addressing this problem seriously and comprehensively involves getting to the root. Reducing recidivism rates significantly requires going to the heart of the impaired driving offense, which is why YouImpact is so successful.
YouImpact takes offenders on an uncomfortable journey by compelling them to view – up close and personal – the consequences of their actions.
In our program, offenders are required to take an online course as part of their rehabilitation where they watch videos and listen to stories of victims and defendants. The course leads participants through sometimes heart-wrenching accounts of the suffering victims undergo and the price victims pay.
In a sense, YouImpact makes offenders eyewitnesses to the destruction their actions brought to victims, to families and to entire communities. History teaches that the telling of stories – especially those that touch the human heart – are the most powerful tools of learning and of assuming personal responsibility for individual behavior.
Time spent behind cold, steel bars in a jail cell, frequent visits to probation officers and high legal and punitive costs may serve as a deterrent at some level, as the statistics reflect, but only to a point. Viewing personal accounts of the wretched human cost – the deep pain and the ringing agony – takes offenders to a new and profound level of personal accountability.
YouImpact works because it touches the offender rather than the offense. Statistics validate the benefits of programs like YouImpact. Such online programs reduce recidivism by 35 percent.
Here at YouImpact, we are using this section to share news related to distracted and impaired driving and related issues, like today’s article. If you have questions about this article or about our successful online program, contact us today.